Exercise Is NOT An Option But We Need Options For Exercise (The secret of feeling good)
By: Sylvia Byrd-Leitner, MFA, CPT, RYT, Master Pilates Teacher
Would you forgo brushing your teeth? Would we allow our children to forgo brushing their teeth? When teaching a group of master instructors, Jonathan Hoffman* used this analogy to drive home the fundamental concept that we as humans must exercise. Movement is essential. Proper motion is lotion. Use it or lose it.
Our joints need to be exercised to remain optimally functional. Our bodies need to be moved. Moving our bodies facilitates hormonal and other chemical changes that are necessary for regulating many of our bodily functions, from breathing to metabolism to elimination.
As an undergraduate I worked as a physical therapist’s aid at Moss Rehabilitation Center, in Philadelphia, PA. One of my responsibilities was to exercise clients that had contractures. Seeing a contracture astounded me. A contracture is defined as “a shortening or distortion of muscular or connective tissue due to spasm, scar or paralysis of the antagonist of the contracting muscle”. The patient I was working with had been in a coma, lying in a fetal position for 3 weeks…he could not straighten his arms or legs. His elbows and knees were locked tight in toward his body. It was my job to unfold his limbs by manually manipulating them to help him regain mobility. Trying to straighten his arm was like trying to pry apart something that had been welded together. All this rigidity was a consequence of being immobile for just 21 days! That is how quickly we can lose our ability to flex and extend the arm at the elbow. (Think bicep curl or lifting a glass to your mouth). To a much lesser degree most of us can relate to how stiff we feel after sitting in a car for a couple of hours or when we get out of bed in the morning. We take it slowly at first and then via movement more movement becomes available to us.
Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it. ~Plato
There is also a natural tendency for us to conserve effort. Maybe we know intuitively that locomotion is good but as we age, we seek short cuts and then pat ourselves on the back (if we can reach that far) for doing less under the guise of its being more efficient. Think getting a front row parking space at the supermarket. It’s like winning a prize. Back in the day we didn’t have remote controls…so my father often called on his children to change the channels!
If it weren't for the fact that the TV set and the refrigerator are so far apart, some of us wouldn't get any exercise at all. ~Joey Adams
There are countless articles on how exercise staves off the aging process. We know exercise is good for us physically and psychologically, allowing us to lead richer and fuller lives. So why do we so often resist? Why is it so hard to get up and exercise? Why do we talk ourselves out of it? What stops us from exercising? Inertia? Fear? Time constraints? Budget limitations?
Exercise should be regarded as tribute to the heart. ~Gene Tunney
A major motivator is finding the right format, a format where the exercising itself feels good. An athlete may have fallen into the habit of movement because they started at an early age. Maybe they were considered gifted. Nothing like being rewarded by mom or dad or your peers to keep you going. But… what if you were not the “athletic type”? What if your relationship with your body is one of constant struggle maybe because you didn’t fit into a particular sport…maybe because you don’t look like the images in magazines and movies? Maybe exercise was not something your family encouraged so now you feel it’s too late… why bother?
“Mr. Duffy spent most of his life living a short distance from his body” (James Joyce)
The athlete understands the empowerment of exercise. They’ve made movement a part of their lives. It feels good! No matter your age, body type or size, “right” exercise will make you feel better. Can we non-athletes find that same commitment to movement? Absolutely!
Do you on a regular basis carry your body around like it is unnecessary baggage, moving from one place to another like it’s a chore? Can you reframe and recognize what a gift it is to be able to move from here to there...to be able to walk into your kitchen and turn on the light or pick something up off the floor? Do you have reverence for movement…caring for your body with motion to keep it tuned up and running smoothly? Learning to befriend our bodies by engaging in safe and intelligent exercise is possible. Sports has become a billion-dollar business but the games of youth, running, jumping, and skipping that have fostered most sports started with the idea of play. It was fun. Then it became about community and teams and then was finessed into competitive sports etc. The bottom line is that playing physical games was first seen as play…because again, the secret the athlete knows is that playing, moving the body, feels good.
Physical fitness can neither be achieved by wishful thinking nor outright purchase. ~Joseph Pilates
Dare to empower yourself through exercise, not because you’re going to be an Olympic athlete or so that you can fit into a size 0 pair of jeans but so that you’ll get more pleasure out of doing all that you do…from shopping for whatever size jeans you wear, climbing a flight of stairs, playing with your children or grandchildren, to playing with your partner. I have been repeatedly told that exercising has revitalized a person’s sex life.
Referring again to Jonathan Hoffman’s Movement Concepts, he cites FFF. That is Fix, Foundation and Fun. If it’s broken, we seek out the necessary specialist and work towards healing, that is Fix. From there we do foundational exercises that will strengthen us and help prevent us from needing Fix, this is Foundation. Fun is when we do those things we like recreationally. Some examples of Fun would be skiing, shooting hoops, gardening, golfing, pickle ball, surfing and I’d like to add couch potato-ing! Yes…being able to deeply relax is enhanced by exercise! With the proper foundation we can do the Fun with a little more abandon.
Whether you need the community of a group to aid with motivation or prefer the privacy of your home the options for exercise are many. They allow for varied budgets of both money and time.
“A living body is not a fixed thing but a flowing event…”. Alan Watts
Exercise to stimulate, not to annihilate. The world wasn't formed in a day, and neither were we. Set small goals and build upon them. Lee Haney
Okay so what are some options for feel good foundational exercise? How about, Pilates, CoreAlign, Tai Chi, yoga swimming, walking, hikes in nature, spinning, dancing, fencing, or bike riding? Is there any sport that piques your interest? Do you have inspiring friends that participate in regular fitness routines? Find out what keeps them motivated?
There is a positive relationship between cognitive function and physical activity. Physical activity helps break the link between boredom and accelerated aging. Finding a physical activity that you can be enthusiastic about will add spark and energy to all that you do. Make a move towards regular exercise…it feels good!